Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Stax Museum Remembers Willie Mitchell

The Staff and Board of Directors of the Soulsville Foundation – the nonprofit organization that operates the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Stax Music Academy, and The Soulsville Charter School – is saddened by the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Willie Mitchell, who died here in Memphis, Tennessee, this morning, Tuesday, January 5, 2010.

Willie Mitchell was as much of a Memphis music legend and pioneer as anyone in the music industry. A trumpeter, bandleader, and one of the greatest music producers in the world, his accomplishments are part of the very backbone of American music. Mr. Mitchell is perhaps best known for discovering, producing, and recording soul and gospel icon Al Green (who performed at the Stax Museum’s grand opening concert, “Soul Comes Home,” in 2003). He also created indelible music with artists such as Ann Peebles, Sly Johnson, O.V. Wright, Donald Bryant, and Otis Clay. More recently, Cat Power a.k.a. Chan Marshall, John Mayer, The Bo-Keys, and Buddy Guy, among others, also recorded at his Royal Studios. Mr. Mitchell spent his entire life creating sounds that will forever remain distinctive, particularly the soul music his Hi Records label released in the 1970s.

“Poppa” Willie Mitchell was a very kind and generous mentor to many of the people with whom he worked and was known by those close to him for his incredible sense of humor. We found it fitting and long overdue when the Grammy Foundation awarded him a Lifetime Trustee Award in 2008, as well as the City of Memphis renaming the stretch of Lauderdale Street in Memphis where Royal Studio is located as “Willie Mitchell Boulevard” in 2004. In October 2007, during the Stax Records 50th Anniversary celebration, the Stax Museum hosted a special event in honor of Mr. Mitchell – a reunion concert performed by Syl Johnson and the famed Hi Rhythm Section, with all members of the group (the Hodges Brothers and Howard Grimes) playing together for the first time in 30 years. Ms. Peebles, Mr. Bryant, and other Hi Records artists attended and were recognized.

Mitchell was a great friend of Stax Records during its heyday and shared such musicians as Booker T. & the MGs’ drummer Al Jackson, Jr., the Memphis Horns, and others. Together, Stax and Hi were known as the creators of “the Memphis Sound” throughout the world, and that remains the same today.

Our thoughts and prayers now go out to Mr. Mitchell’s family, friends, colleagues, and the millions of his fans whose lives were changed through his music.


Dana Brandon said...

Great comments Tim. I know you will miss having him in the Stax neighborhood!

d.j. walton said...

It's always so sad when we lose such a music great. I've enjoyed his work so much over the years. I've read a lot about him as well as many other soul music icons. His genius will be missed. My heart goes out to his family and to The Reverend Al Green.